746: The Improbable Return of Coco Chanel by Richard Parker

by Gerard


746.92092: Parker, Richard. The Improbable Return of Coco Chanel: As Witnessed by her Assistant, Richard Parker (Volume 1). Narragansett, RI: eBook Bakery, 2012. 124 pp. ISBN 978-1-938517-13-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts
  • 740: Drawing and decorative arts
  • 746: Textile arts
  • 746.9: Other textile products
  • 746.92: Fashion design
  • +092: Biography

Richard Parker served as the creative and design assistant to the legendary Coco Chanel for many years during her resurgence as the creative director of the Chanel Perfumes showroom in New York. Decades before, she had changed the fashion world for the better by debuting what is known today as the little black dress. She moved fashion design out of the eccentric showrooms of the male designers and onto the streets where everyone could have access (even if they couldn’t afford it). As her assistant, Parker became privy to more details than the general public and seeks to set the record straight on a few matters in The Improbable Return of Coco Chanel.

Parker’s prose, somehow both gossipy and authoritarian, has very little in the way of supporting documentation. Other than his seemingly prodigious memory, there are absolutely no footnotes or citations in this text. He asks us to trust that he knows the real motivations and life story of the vaunted designer, but he ends up just as misleading as those he accuses of spreading falsehoods about Coco. To be sure, there are some splendid details here on the construction of the iconic New York Chanel showroom and the creation of the signature Chanel perfume. But I think it’s a bit reaching to tag Coco Chanel with the propogation of the flapper movement, the liberation of women from totalitarian clothing styles, and the single voice championing the use of costume jewelry as accessories. She had a lot of good ideas and designs, but Parker’s near-constant deification of his subject makes this one a little bit annoying. Read on if you’re building a library of Coco Chanel material or can see past the author’s halo effect. Otherwise, there are better ones out there.